Brankin, William (served as James)

Brankin, William (served as James)

Private

No. 6957 5th Battalion Australian Infantry

Commemorated:

Died of wounds on Sunday 23 September 1917 (aged 24)

Buried:

Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium (Grave XXIV. C. 20)

Commemorated:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission (as William Brankin)

Newtownards and District War Memorial (as James Brankin)

Nephew of Sergeant George Brankin (No. 16204)

BIOGRAPHY

The name James Brankin is listed on Newtownards and District War Memorial and in the booklet produced for the Unveiling and Dedication Ceremony held on Saturday 26 May 1934 he is described as a Rifleman in the Royal Irish Rifles.

Some of the initial confusion about the identity of this casualty stemmed from the fact that both he and his father used the forenames James, William, and William James on different occasions.  Also, the family lived at different times in Newtownards, England, and Scotland.  Both father and son were in the Army, and it was the son who died.  He served in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) as James Brankin but, in his service papers it is recorded that on 11 March 1918, after he had died, his father ‘provided documentary evidence showing his true name to be William’, and it is as William Brankin that he is commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.  It was his father who at one time served with the Royal Irish Rifles.

James (subsequently corrected by his father to William) Brankin enlisted on 18 September 1916 at Melbourne, Australia.  He lived at 5 Lower Smythe Street, Geelong, Victoria, and worked as a rigger.  He cited his father, William Brankin, of 51 Bellshill Road, Uddingston, Lanark, Scotland, as his next-of-kin.  In his attestation papers it was noted that he had been born in Ulster and his age was 23 years one month, implying that he was born in August 1893 (he was in fact born on 26 July 1893).  He was 5 feet 5 inches tall with a fair complexion, blue eyes, and fair hair.  He was Church of England and had scars on his left wrist and left knee.  There was a tattoo on his right forearm.  He embarked at Melbourne onboard His Majesty’s Australian Transport (HMAT) A20 Hororata on 23 November 1916 and disembarked at Plymouth on 29 January 1917.  He went from Folkestone to France on 3 May 1917.

[HMAT A20 Hororata was torpedoed and sank on 5 April 1943 during the Second World War]

Private William James Brankin (No. 6957) suffered multiple shrapnel wounds in action on 20 September 1917 and died on 23 September 1917 in the 10th Casualty Clearing Station.  In pension records there is a reference to his stepmother, Catherine Brankin of 51 Bellshill Road, Uddingston, Lanark, Scotland, and it was she who acknowledged receipt of all his belongings – a coin, two photographs, a purse, a badge, a knife, a pipe, a wallet, and a money belt.

Private William James Brankin (No. 6957) is commemorated as James Brankin on Newtownards and District War Memorial.

William James Brankin (the casualty) was born on 26 July 1893, and he was a son of William James and Lizzie (Eliza) Brankin (nee Welsh) of Forde Street, Newtownards.

William James Brankin (aged 18) and Lizzie Welsh, sometimes Walsh, (aged 18) were married on 8 December 1892 in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Mark’s).  William James Brankin, a groom from South Street, Newtownards was a son of James Brankin, a dealer.  Lizzie Welsh from Corry’s Deed, Newtownards was a daughter of David Welsh, a labourer.

William James and Lizzie Brankin (nee Welsh) had at least three children:

William, civil records, James, church baptismal records (born 26 July 1893 in Forde Street, Newtownards; father named as James Brankin, a groom)

David John (born prematurely 9 January 1895 in Forde Street, Newtownards; father named as William James Brankin, a labourer; David died 10 January 1895 aged 10½ hours)

Agnes Anna (born 3 May 1896 in Corry’s Deed, Newtownards; father named as James Brankin; Agnes died of pertussis in Newtownards Workhouse 18 December 1896 aged seven months)

Their mother Lizzie died of tuberculosis on 17 September 1896 (aged 21) at Forde Street, Newtownards.

In 1901 William James Brankin (named as James, aged 7) was living with his widowed grandmother, Agnes Brankin, at Marymount Street, Belfast.  Also living there were five of Agnes’s children – John, Elizabeth Jane, George, Agnes Anna, and Jessie Brankin.  William James Brankin and his uncle George Brankin both died in service in the First World War.

William James Brankin (the casualty) moved to Australia, and it was there that he enlisted in the Australian Army.

Sometime after his mother Lizzie died, his father William James was in England, and on 9 July 1900 he married Catherine Pearson in Newcastle-on-Tyne.  Later they moved to Scotland.

William James and Catherine Brankin (nee Pearson) had at least three children:

Janet Abraham (born at 7.40 pm on 12 January 1901 at North Road, Bellshill, Lanark, Scotland; father named as William James Brankin, a coal miner)

Andrew (born around 1911 in Uddingston)

Elizabeth Catherine (born at 11.30 pm on 7 October 1912 at Uddingston, Lanark, Scotland; father named as William James Brankin, a coal miner)

In 1921 the Brankin family was living at 51 Portland Place, Uddingston.

William James Brankin, father of the Great War casualty, had Army service before and during the Great War:  Royal Irish Rifles (No. 1898), Royal Irish Fusiliers (No. 1/13923), Northumberland Fusiliers (No. 98469), and Durham Light Infantry (No. 172754).

He first enlisted on 15 April 1890 at Newtownards, and it was noted in his attestation papers that he was born in Bridgeton, Glasgow and his age was 15 years 9 months, implying that he was born in July 1874.  He was a stable boy working for J. McKee, Newtownards.  He was 5 feet no inches tall with a fresh complexion, hazel eyes, and light brown hair.  He was Church of England and had tattoo marks on his right forearm and right hand.  He was discharged from that period of service on 14 April 1904.

William James Brankin died from cardio-vascular degeneration on 17 June 1943 (aged 69) at 26 Union Street, Bellshill.  It was noted on his death certificate that he was the widower of, first, Elizabeth Welsh, and second, Catherine Pearson.  It was also noted that he was a son of James Brankin, a threshing mill driver, and Agnes Brankin (nee Savage), both deceased.  His son, Andrew Brankin, registered his death.

Searches to date have not yet definitively confirmed William James Brankin’s date of birth but there is indicative evidence that he was born in 1874:  he first enlisted on 15 April 1890 aged 15 years 9 months; he married on 8 December 1892 aged 18; he died on 17 June 1943 aged 69.

William James Brankin’s parents James and Agnes Anna Brankin (nee Savage) were married on 24 June 1871 in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Mark’s).  James Brankin (aged 21), a box maker from Belfast, was a son of Thomas Brankin, a farmer.  Agnes Anna Savage (aged 20) from Upper Movilla Street, Newtownards was a daughter of Abraham Savage, a weaver.

James Brankin worked as a labourer and he and Agnes had at least ten children:

John (born 13 June 1872 in Movilla Street, Newtownards; died 24 February 1876 at 43 Adelphi Street, Glasgow aged 3)

William James (born around 1874 at Bridgeton, Glasgow)

Unnamed female child (born 24 October 1876 in Movilla Street, Newtownards)

David Blackwood (born 4 August 1878 in Movilla Street, Newtownards; moved to Canada in 1910, married Mary Chatterton; served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force; died 8 December 1961)

John (born 24 April 1881 in Queen Street, Newtownards)

Elizabeth Jane (born 9 July 1886 in Greenwell Street, Newtownards)

Hugh (born 6.40 am 3 March 1888 in North Street, Newtownards)

George (born 7.00 am 3 March 1888 in North Street, Newtownards)

Agnes Anna (born 21 March 1889 in North Street, Newtownards)

Jessie (Jessey, born 17 March 1891 in South Street, Newtownards)

Their father, James Brankin, died of tuberculosis at 20 Thistle Street, Belfast on 6 July 1896 (aged 40).